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New Bagpipe works

During this lockdown I have been exploring a variety of ways to create new, contemporary bagpipe ensemble sounds and textures. These works have been inspired by composers such as Hildur Gudnadottir, John Adams, John Metcalfe, Steve Reich and Brian Eno.

The Grey Sky Prelude

This minimalist piece is the opening to my debut album 'Mackerel Sky'

01 PreludeJohn Dew
00:00 / 02:04

This piece aims to exploit the chromatic potential that the bagpipes explores, drawing from the works of J.S. Bach's solo instrumental suites

Bagpipe Trio No 1 in A minor

Bagpipe Trio No 1 in A minor, nicknamed '5-6-7-', explores how three pipers can interact in this darker bagpipe key. Here, the pipes take turns with leading, acting as a tune player and creating their own accompaniments and underlying, polyphonic textures:

I - 5/8 Allegro

II - 6/8 Adagio

III - 7/8 Allegro

Bagpipe Quartet No 1 in D

Bagpipe Quartet No 1, explores how three pipers can interact with each other. Here, the pipes take turns with leading, acting as a tune player and creating their own accompaniments and underlying, polyphonic textures. Consisting of 3 movements with varying tempi and texture, this piece explores melodic development within the exposed themes.

Terra Firma

Terra Firma is a bagpipe suite composed for 1 live piper and 4 pre-recorded pipers. This can be played either on Scottish Smallpipes or Electronic Pipes. Consisting of 5 movements this piece is an exploration of 5 part counterpoint texture with the principle part taking the main melody and the pre-recorded parts on the underlying texture acting as accompaniment. The focus of this piece is the idea of our ground and what we stand on, although it appears solid, parts of our landscape can be in constant movement whilst others appear solid yet we can't always find our feet.

I - Allegro Vivace

II - Piobaireachd

III - Allegro

IV - Adagio

V - Marche

(email John for full programme notes on each movement)

Organum - A Suite for Pipe Band

This short piece was composed for a Pipe Band. Organum is known to be one of the oldest forms of music whereby an organ was used to create several polyphonic textures using a cantus firmus melody and a counterpoint. I have explored this concept in this piece. I took that idea of melodies playing against each other and applied it in 3 sections; the first and last are rifs. The middle section uses the same concept but with a pipe band style reel. The main melody is in B minor, which then has a contrapuntal part below it with the 3rd line working above the melody line and finally the fourth one weaves in and out of the first line. Then they play in unison and each part gradually establishes their own lines of the tune to counter that main melody. Eventually the upper 2 lines counter each other and then the bottom 2 counter each other and if you group them into 2 single entities they then counter each other as well. During the piece you should be able to hear a single repeated note but that's not in a part by itself, it comes through the polyphonic syncopated rhythms working together/against each other to create syncopation. Their 2 different entities put into 1 then creates two opposing idioms against each other (pipe corps vs drum corps but in 2 sections each) as well creating more polyphony and just to top it all off, the whole piece will be played against the drone of the bagpipes as well.

'3-4-2'- A Suite for 9 solo pipers and orchestra.

This piece was started in 2019 at my address which was house number 342. The concept here is that there are nine pipers in this suite. The first group is a group of 3 pipers, 2 playing the same line with the third acting as the harmony player. The next group is a group of 4 pipers, subdivided into two sections of 2 pipers playing the same line. The last group is a group of 2 pipers playing different lines in homophonic harmony. The idea then grew and there are now 4 movements for the soloists with orchestrations being written as we speak. Each movement looks at 1 of the 4 most common modes found on the highland bagpipe:

I - G Phrygian - Allegro

II - A Mixolydian - Piobaireachd

III - B Aeolian - Compound

IV - D Ionian - Air

Watch the first movement, G Phrygian, here:

Email John for full programme notes. Also please note, video scores do not contain gracenotes as they should be added to the performers preference.

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